Community Hubs for Healing and Celebration

As the holidays approach, many people are trying to find the perfect gift for a friend or family member. And they don’t have to look far. It’s likely in a shop right in their town, down the road.

These shops feature consciousness-raising and/or sustainably-produced goods that are designed to appeal to the human spirit; our emotions; and our five senses of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste. In the end, such gifts are inherently designed to make the receiver and the giver feel good, lighter and more at peace. And they are designed to help people heal and thrive.

Beyond providing unique gifts—such as crystals, candles, essential oils, Tibetan singing bowls, music CDs and books—the shop owners also bring the community together. Some hold fundraisers for good causes; have drum circles or offer craniosacral therapy, massage, Reiki and other energy healing work. And many shop owners sell local artists’ wares, supporting their neighbors.

Learning to Protect Oneself

Crystals, salt lamps, jewelry, wind chimes, books and greeting cards—many of which are created by local artists—pepper the shop at Enchanted (EnchantedGuilford.com) in Guilford, Connecticut. Roni Landino, the shop’s owner and a former registered nurse, helps build community by hosting Tibetan singing bowl sessions. Her Friday workshops include smudging, angel writing, shamanism and other topics. Intuitive readers lead sessions to help others see the future and offer customers tools to find more peace, for example.

A popular workshop is for empaths, says Landino, a self-proclaimed empath. Being an empath is when we are affected by other people’s energies; we have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. If someone is sick or anxious, an empath picks up on that, Landino explains. And often others “purposefully dump” their bad energy and emotions on empaths, making them feel better. But the empath is stuck feeling anxious and unhealthy. Landino says her workshops help empaths learn to block the bad energy.

Her shop’s intuitive readers also help those with typical decisions, such as whether a house is ready to be put on the market now or if there are any problems that should be addressed.

Vibration and Healing

Other healing ceremonies are available at the Rock Garden (RockGarden.com) in Branford, Connecticut. It’s celebrating its 31st year in business. It offers many gems and rocks mainly for collectors and for those who want them for vibrational properties for healing, says owner Andrew Sinclair-Day, who also has Reiki training. Stones have different properties, such as warding off negative energy, for protection, or for more peace. Amethyst is a popular stone because it protects; it is helpful to place in a car when traveling as it almost creates a bubble around the car, Sinclair-Day says. It helps temper addiction, such as with alcohol or drugs.

“A few state troopers have come in and bought stones to put in their cars, to kind of help keep some of the craziness away from them,” Sinclair-Day says. “You’d be surprised. It’s becoming more mainstream.”

Rock Garden offers shamanism healings and workshops. Shamans help people retrieve parts of their soul that might have been lost or fractured during a traumatic experience, or help people see their past lives to bring more peace to their lives today.

He also hosts kirtan events, which involve “call and response” chanting and singing sessions using an accordion-like instrument and drums, with the main goal being relaxation, becoming more centered and feeling joyous, Sinclair-Day says.

And he offers jewelry making classes as well as Reiki sessions. “A lot of people who have never experienced it before say it really resonates with them,” Sinclair-Day adds. “Some people get so locked into their path that deviating a little from it can be a struggle. And when they experience something new like this, it opens up their path where they can meander a bit and learn new things.”

Also in Branford is the Avant Garde Center for Wellness (AvantGardeCT.com), which has been around for 35 years; it offers a high-quality gift shop with Fair Trade and eco-friendly items, a yoga studio, and a wellness salon and spa. Owner Ron Smith, also a cosmetologist, says he wants to bring more peace and wellness.

The gift shop, or boutique, offers many American-made items and includes sage, incense, jewelry, clothing, crystal bowls and inspiring books and CDs. Many items are attached to women’s rights, animal shelters, greening the planet and Doctors Without Borders.

The center offers an array of events centered around spiritual growth and holistic healing. Events include crystal bowl holographic healing sessions; psychic development workshops; classes on crystals; drum-making classes; guided meditations; and kirtan, which is a Sanskrit word for narrating or reciting an idea. It also refers to a genre of religious performance arts. And Smith brings inspirational speakers from the medical and health community, including in Ayurvedic and homeopathic fields. It’s a one-stop shop of sorts, covering three floors and almost 4,000 square feet.

“It’s a way to bring the community together during so much division,” Smith says. “There is so much separatism now, and really, we are all divinely connected to one another. So I want to bring people together rather than divide people.”

Smith’s workshops and sessions help people harness their energy, and be conscious and aware of how thoughts and actions affect our lives. Smith divulges that he wants people to view life with love, compassion, forgiveness and non-judgment.

“A lot of people are so brainwashed, and so much of how we do things are about learned behavior. We’re going through life unconscious,” Smith states. “But all things serve a purpose. Some things that are negative can be the most uplifting experience and have potential for great growth.”

Every day, Smith says people thank him for the events and healing he offers. And he’s always looking for new practitioners to “bring light or love to others,” in the way of making items—such as art or soaps/or providing healing or music at the center. “As long as the message is positive … we encourage it,” he explains.

Angela Pascopella is a 26-year journalism veteran and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings. She resides in Fairfield County.